redcurrant collective

Other People Dancing: Einstein on the Beach

Last night, fellow collective member Claire Westby and I got to see our very own Sarah Hillmon perform in Einstein on the Beach. The opera is four and a half hours for nine scenes, five “knee plays” and has no specific plot. As a concept it can be quite daunting. What are you going to see? If you’ve seen some pictures you know there will be a train, a bunch of circle lights and old school judges; if you haven’t all you can guess is “stuff.” You know there is going to be music and some stuff, and all this stuff is going to add up to nothing in particular in no particular order and this ambling is going to end four and a half hours later. Sounds great, right? Probably not. So why are people still going to something so vague and directionless thirty five years later?

It’s because it makes you feel. Not some sort of emotional feeling like excitement, anger, happiness or dread, but the calm meditative feeling of spending the day relaxing in nature. The choreography is so simple and clear that you aren’t worried about what it means – it’s a diagonal, there is no meaning attached. It doesn’t matter that you’ve seen the dancers walk the same diagonal twenty times already, because that diagonal is ever so slowly changing and interesting enough that you want to watch it. You don’t feel pressured to watch it, you just want to. If your mind wanders, then you won’t be lost when you look at the diagonal again –  it will simply be a little different. In this way the choreography mimics many natural events like the seasons which are gradual, slow, somewhat expected, yet still interesting.

Glass’ music paradoxically suspends time by giving a clear beat. You know when you’re in the park and all your cat-napping, book-reading, tag-playing, and other leisurely activities makes it hard to tell what time it is? The music is like that. In the Spaceship section (I think it was the spaceship section) I noticed how this was accomplished. I’m going to get into a little music theory here and I’m no expert, so take this with a grain of salt: the chorus is singing the counts of the music, a four followed by a six followed by an eight. The one of each group is accented by a bass note in the key of the song, which is called the tonic. A tonic is usually played at the beginning and end of a song and somehow gives the listener the sense of a beginning or end because it is the most resolved note that could possibly be played in it’s key.  I caught on they were singing -234 123456 -2345678, and because the words are not used at the same time the tonic is, you end up feeling more resolve because there is less happening on the bass tonic. It’s a slight difference, but you feel it whether or not you notice it, and if you watch the audience you can see them actually moving with the music. The numeric pattern goes on long enough for your body adjust to feeling something every nine to seven counts and then it changes; 1234 -23456 -2345678, now your body has a different rhythm. You adjust, it changes, you adjust, it changes and this repeats… for a long time. You body falls into and out of rhythms that is has felt before and you end up in in some sort of comfortable stage of constant metered change. It feels quite natural but you’ll find that after a while, you don’t really know how long you’ve been changing or even how many times you changed, just that where you are now is different than where you were before.

I have more to say, but I’m not sure how to say it and this blog post is already too long so I’m going to cut it off here. I hope you, too, got to go to the beach.

words: Russell Stuart Lilie 

choreography: Lucinda Childs


Other People Dancing: Benjamin Kimitch’s work in progress

On the breezy evening of July 19th, RCC berries Julia, Sarah, and myself curiously arrived at Brooklyn Arts Exchange for an in-progress showing of new work by Benjamin Kimitch. We were all looking forward to seeing what Ben had been up to with dancers Julie McMillan and Claire Westby since we had last seen his work in an academic setting.

What we weren’t prepared for was how deeply Ben would take us into his artistic process. It is a rare thing for a choreographer to lead you through the evolution of their thoughts step-by-step, providing visual aids, anecdotes, and rehearsal experiences as context for considering their work. Rare, but incredibly rewarding. From a Chinese dance and laser show spectacular, to an M.I.A. music video, to ancient cave paintings, to cityscape photographs eerily devoid of people, to a passage from Artaud, I felt like I was taking a vacation from my own analytical head, only to dive into Ben’s. Once Claire and Julie began their demonstration of material, I felt I had an immediate context and understanding of their movement, which only increased my interest in the dense yet tender nature of their duets.

And then there was that word: duet. Ben’s work here was so refreshing because he somehow managed to have two dancers moving together without  any of the trappings of a”duet.” It was more like they were both part of the same person, affecting the space and time around them as well as one another with the same energy one might use in pursuing two separate trains of thought. Their movements were layered and intricate; their journeys through space, pleasantly strange. The dancers’ downcast eyes represented a distinct artistic choice (Ben stressed this non-confrontational aspect of Chinese traditional dance) rather than a performance habit. It was fascinating to see the bones of a dance, already sculpted and polished so extensively, without the larger form of a “piece.”

I was further intrigued by Ben’s self-proclaimed struggle with the task of creating an environment in which an audience might begin to consider and meditate on a theme (in this case, loss). This difficulty is one that all dance-makers face at different times and in different ways, and one ideal outcome was articulated on the back of my program: “A real stage play upsets our sensual tranquility, releases our repressed subconscious, drives us to a kind of potential rebellion (since it retains its full value only if it remains potential), calling for a difficult heroic attitude on the part of the assembled groups.” [Antonin Artaud’s The Theater and its Double, Calder, 1993]

Ben’s longtime collaborator, Matthew-Flory Meade, is developing an original score for the work’s premier in 2013. A few recordings from the group’s time at Kaatsbaan were played alongside bits of choreography, and I was struck by how sparse the music, with its lone, resonant piano notes, was in comparison with the incredible complexity of the dancing. A second in-progress showing will take place on Saturday, October 13th at 6pm in the newly renovated New York Live Arts studios. You better bet I’ll be there!

Words: Liz Montgomery

Dancing: Julie McMillan and Claire Westby for Benjamin Kimitch

Meet The Members: Julia Jurgilewicz

We’ve asked each of the ten RedCurrant members what they’ve been up to since graduating from Tisch and what they are looking forward to doing with the Collective in the next year.

Amidst a group of nine, radically active individuals, all of which hold down a minimum of two jobs and multiple side projects, there is invariably one organized person who manages to get them all together in one room at the same time. For RedCurrant Collective, that person is Julia. Ceaselessly scheduling with the help of our new favorite toy, Doodle, Julia still manages to always send an essential email, find one last typo before we go to print, and realize an impending disaster before any of the rest of us. Without her, not only would we never see each other; we’d probably all be spontaneously combusting.

Like many of us, Julia has been surprised by the various directions in which her career has wandered. Yet her resumé knows no equal in her eclecticism.  She has been a cover for the Met Opera’s production of Don Giovanni (and actually got to perform!), danced for one weekend with San Francisco-based company Levy Dance, acted as a consultant for the Charles Weidman Foundation, performed with Stacey Rose Collaborations, been in a commercial for the Guggenheim’s collection in Australia, and even appeared as an extra on “Law and Order.”

Like a few of her fellow berries, Julia is a part of Claudia Hubiak’s The Anata Project, a bi-coastal experiment in mindful dance creation. Whenever I encounter her, whether it be in the morning at Gibney Dance Center or for rehearsal at Triskelion Arts, Julia  is invariably coming from/going to another gig. Just the other day, she was explaining to me the recent stint she’d had as a be-sparkled backup dancer for a Canadian-Indian Bollywood singer. One thing’s for sure: JJ has got M-O-M-E-N-T-U-M, and she is dedicated to constantly finding new ways to keep dance a main focus. I count myself lucky to be among a very select few who can accurately spell her last name.

Thanks Julia!

Julia Jurgilewicz has never licked an eyeball. She likes to eat Irish-oatmeal-raisin cookies while folding laundry. Her favorite place to read fantasy fiction novels is the subway. One day, she would like to own a pig for a pet.

words:Liz Montgomery and Julia Jurgilewicz
photography: Samantha Siegel and Julia’s parents


Currant Events: a recap of “Tags Attached”

So it’s been a few weeks since our first showing (which went very well, thank you muchly) and we are all still recovering… in a good way. Both the evening and matinee were very near capacity and even though there was no admission fee, we made enough in donations to cut everyone in the collective a performance check. It was a fantastic feeling to be surrounded entirely by people who wanted for us to succeed.

Laura and Claire in Brighid's piece, "Tag Part 1," set to the sounds of a Beach Boys session in process

Our first performance taught us lessons we could not have learned any other way; lessons about setup, organization, finances, change-overs, communication, sharing responsibilities, oh how the the list goes on! We’ve already discussed all the ways we could have done better, not because we aren’t proud of what we accomplished but because we redcurrant berries see every mistake as a way to grow.

the gals, hanging out upside down and gossiping in my piece, "medi-evil"

On an artistic note, we got some great feedback about the differences and similarities in our work that will help us both to remain cohesive as a group and to continue to move in different directions. And now that we have a working repertory, we are planning on spreading out all over the city this summer for festivals and curated events. We have renewed our partnership with Gibney Dance for another year (woohoo!) and our commitment to supporting one another, artistically and as friends, has never been stronger.

Michael Gonzalez-Cameron, without whose voluntary efforts we would have been lost, looking fabulous as usual

Thank you to everyone who volunteered, attended, donated, and responded so articulately to our work. We can’t wait to see what the universe has in store for us next, and we hope you are right there to see it with us.

words: Liz Montgomery
photography: Meg Montgomery

Meet the Members: Sarah Hillmon

We’ve asked each of the ten RedCurrant members what they’ve been up to since graduating from Tisch and what they are looking forward to doing with the Collective in the next year.

Sarah is RedCurrant’s treasurer and ever-helpful number cruncher, and boy are we glad! While the rest of us were avoiding math classes like the plague in college, Sarah was tackling advanced trigonomics and algebrometry. She is currently serving as the general coordinator for our upcoming showing, Tags Attached.

Sarah spent most of the summer relaxing and took some time off to visit her family. She also explored her new neighborhood and took serious advantage of our Gibney Dance Center connection, meaning a lot of cleaning in exchange for ballet classes. She worked at good ol’ Macy’s in Rochester, NY and danced at Garth Fagan’s summer program. Sarah’s current day job is at Capezio where she helps to supply tights, leotards, and tiny black shorts to all manner of dancers… and sometimes regular people who are looking for Black Swan costumes.

She recently became an alternate with the Lucinda Childs Dance Company and has been rehearsing for an international tour of Philip Glass and Robert Wilson’ opera, Einstein on the Beach, with choreography by Childs. When she isn’t dancing, taking class, or working, you can find her at her home in Crown Heights where she lives with fellow collective member, Allie, and a cat named Dylan.

Sarah has seen a lot of us lately (in addition to rehearsing multiple pieces, she has also acted as a peer reviewer for our works in process), but she isn’t sick of us yet! As far as the future goes, Sarah hopes that we will continue making new works together and in doing so, get our names on the map.

Thanks Sarah!

Sarah Hillmon has never mastered the harmonica. She likes to drink extra strong coffee while watching Netflix movies. Her favorite place to daydream is in her head. One day, she would like to see the world.

words: Liz Montgomery and Sarah Hillmon
photography: Samantha Siegel and on of those school photographers